Wheat farming is a lucrative venture as we have stated from before. Approximately 4.5 metric tonnes of wheat can be realized per hectare. The farming of wheat is a long haul undertaking since it takes as many as 8 months for maturity to be reached. In order for all the effort to pay off, harvesting wheat must not be taken lightly. Significant losses can be borne out of improperly harvesting wheat and that is why this article is important. We shall be taking you through the steps taken in wheat harvesting along with additional key pieces of information.
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When To Start Harvesting Wheat
After, on average, 7 to 8 months wheat will be ready for harvesting. We can also add that in the event that you were using chemicals to treat your wheat crop you must hold off harvesting a little. You have to look at the last time you applied any chemical to your crop. From that point count a full month and that will give you an idea of when you can start harvesting. This is meant to ensure that your wheat quality is not compromised by chemicals.
Should Be Crunchy
Regardless of working with the timeline, there are certain practical tests or checks you can do to ascertain that the wheat is really ripe. For instance, when you place a wheat kernel inside your mouth it should be crunchy upon chewing it. If it is easily chewable and is generally soft then it is not ready for harvesting. In that case it would be wise to allow it to get a bit drier.
Another indication is that when the seed top ends nod in response to air movement, harvesting is imminent. This is refers to when the weight of the wheat kernels causes the wheat plant to sort of tilt over.
There Should Be No Greenness
You can also look at the colour – when there is no greenness left (on the seed heads) that is a sign that the wheat is ripe and ready. When the whole wheat plant literally has a gold colour that is what we are talking about.
The imminence of harvesting wheat can be premised on checking the moisture levels. This can be done by using moisture metres which can be purchased in-store. Harvesting can commence when moisture levels reach anything between 20 and 14 percent.
Harvesting wheat is best done when it is dry and sunny. This is usually around summer time but remember it should not be late summer or times when the risks of downpours is high.
Approaches In Harvesting Wheat
Despite advancements in technology some people are still harvesting wheat manually. This is usually done by those farming wheat on very small scales. Interestingly, the majority of wheat farmers in Asia use sickles for harvesting wheat. For those doing it on a large scale it is commonplace to use combine or other form of mechanical harvesters.
How Wheat Harvesting Is Done
There are several different harvesting methods used in harvesting wheat. When harvesting wheat it is the combine harvester that literally does it all. It is essentially a 3 in 1 machine in that it reaps, threshes and winnows the wheat. For those whose do wheat harvesting by hand it means they have to do all those 3 manually – very laborious! However, the use of combine harvesters is common amongst large scale producers. Most small wheat farmers harvest wheat manually.
The basic manual process entails pulling out the wheat plants by hand or cutting them using sickles. This is then followed by threshing which is usually done on floors or wooden stacks. The most basic manual harvesting of wheat employs the use of sickles. Some people also use reapers or scythes. Other than the combine harvester there are other types of mechanical harvesters that can be used. Some use a machine called a swather. It is used for scenarios where wheat is harvested whilst not yet fully dry. This is called swathing. It cuts the wheat plants’ grain tops into rows which will be left to dry. Combine harvesting can then step in once the wheat is sufficiently dry. It is worth noting that combine harvesting is known to also include unripe wheat kernels which can be detrimental to the overall quality of the wheat.
When wheat plants are cut (manually) they are bundled together in units of around 15 plants or slightly less. Those bundles are stacked together in an upright position in an open space, preferably where there is adequate direct sunlight. Such a place is ideal for them to sit for a period of at most 3 days which should suffice for drying. Drying is crucial because if the wheat is not sufficiently dry, subsequent processes such as threshing and even storage will be problematic.
Threshing And Cleaning
There are several methods used to do the threshing process. The wheat plants can be beaten against hard floors or wooden blocks. Alternatively, the wheat plants can be spread out on the ground and animals can be allowed to step on them. Some can even drive things like tractors over piles of wheat plants.
Cleaning is done after the threshing process and is meant to clean the wheat grains. The idea is to get rid of unwanted elements such as straw, poor grains and the like. Methods of cleaning after wheat harvesting are mainly winnowing and sieving. Picking unwanted elements by hand is also employed here. Cleaning is largely done manually but mechanical methods can be improvised.
Yield of Wheat
The yield of wheat depends on the efficiency of the wheat farming process. Large wheat commercial farmers tend to achieve higher yields of wheat per hectare as compared to the small scale farmers. This is because they are more efficient and and have access to more inputs, machinery and finance. Wheat yield varies from 2 tonnes per hectare to 10 tonnes per hectare.
All in all, you must be very particular about harvesting wheat. You should not be too early and you should not be too late. If you are too early it results in you harvesting wheat that is of poor quality. Harvesting wheat too late can lead to losses emanating from weather elements such as winds. You must also be on the lookout to ensure rainfall does not set in whilst your ripe wheat has not been harvested.